What’s Up January

I’m happy to be back sharing tips on family, food & fashion to make your day a little brighter and your life a little easier! It was great to take the month of January off from blogging, but I’m excited to share new content with you in February. I would appreciate it so much if you would forward or share any posts that you gain something useful from with friends that you feel would benefit as well. I would love to see Parker Posts continue to grow in 2020, but I can’t do it without your help. You probably already know about or put to use 99% of the tips that I share. My hope is that the 1% you might learn from this blog enriches your life.

I thought it was appropriate to share a What’s up Wednesday post as my first official blog post now that I’m back from my break. For the past several months I have been linking up with two bloggers, Sheaffer and Shay to share what I have been up to with not only my readers, but a larger blogging community.

What We’re Eating This Month

We ate some of our tried and true favorites and tested out several new recipes this month. Two of them were definite keepers! I try and make one new recipe a week that I have found in a magazine, received from a friend or spotted on Pinterest. You will find the best of the best on My Favorite Tested & Approved Dinner Recipes Pinterest board.

Growing up I looked forward to the batch of Potato Cheese Soup my mom would make each winter. I continue to make it at least once a year for my own family. My mom used to transfer the soup mixture into a food processor and back to achieve the soup’s smooth constancy, but I have found it is much easier to simply use an immersion blender instead. Another bonus to using the immersion blender is that it doesn’t require nearly as much clean up.

Beer Bread is another childhood favorite of mine. I counted myself lucky if I happened to be at my best friend’s house when her dad would make a loaf of this tasty bread. When I spotted Beer Bread Mix at Trader Joe’s last year, I immediately picked a box up while simultaneously calling my best friend to let her know what I found. I like the simple version that simply calls for beer and butter, but you can kick it up a notch with this cheesy jalapeño version on the Trader Joe’s website.

I found this fast & fresh recipe for Herb Rubbed Pork with Squash and Grapes in the December 2018 issue of Better Homes & Gardens. It received a thumbs up from both my husband and kids. The savory pork was juicy and flavorful. The roasted butternut squash and resulting caramelized grapes appealed to everyone’s sweet tooth. The ready-to-eat bag of Cut Butternut Squash from Trader Joe’s added an element of ease in preparing this recipe.

Although I found this 20-Minute Meal in the August 2018 issue of Good Housekeeping, Fresh Veggie Beef Ragu is equally enjoyable to eat during the winter months when you aren’t in the mood for a creamy, heavy sauce. Everyone emptied their pasta bowls when we had this for dinner recently.

What I’m Reminiscing About

For the past several years our family has gathered around the kitchen table for a couple hours to make homemade Valentines for each other. I love watching everyone’s creativity flow and spending some uninterrupted, distraction free time together. Read more about our tradition here.

What I’m Loving

Speaking of creativity… my daughter has been spending her free time designing her brand new bullet journal to keep track of her school assignments and activities for 2020. Have you hear about this trend yet? It is such a fun way to personalize a planner and doodle to your heart’s content. The pages inside are covered with a lightly dotted grid to help with spacing when designing your journal. This is the blank bullet journal that she ordered. You can find bullet journal inspiration pages here.

A bullet journal would make an awesome gift for an artistic tween/teen. Include some colorful pens to make this under $20 gift complete.

What We’ve Been Up To

Going to our kiddos sports events has monopolized most of our weekends. Our son is just finishing up his basketball season and started his football season. My daughter is in the middle of her competitive cheer season. My husband and I found a spare hour in between sports practices last weekend and spent it cleaning out and organizing the garage a little. We still have quite a bit more to do, but just being able to make a small dent feels good. If you find yourself with a free hour or two and a home space that needs cleaning out or organizing I recommend tackling it in this order:

  • Gather a few supplies: a damp rag to wipe spaces clean, several paper grocery bags that you can use to sort. Label them with a sharpie to specify if they are for trash, recycling, donations, or to sell.
  • Set a timer: we tend to work more quickly and efficiently when racing against the clock.
  • Start in one spot and work your way around the room-don’t jump ahead
  • Remove everything from a small section you have chosen to undertake first
  • Wipe down, vacuum or sweep the space.
  • Take any item that doesn’t belong in that space and either put it away where it belongs, throw it away, recycle it or sell it.
  • Group like items and label the bin, box, drawer where they are kept.
  • Show off the newly cleaned and organized space to anyone living in your home. This ensures that everyone knows where they can find what they need and better yet, where to return it when they are done.

Tip: I like to post items we aren’t using anymore on Next Door immediately after a clean out. I have had better luck using Next Door than Craig’s List and Facebook. I also feel more secure knowing that I can choose only nearby neighborhoods to see my for sale posts and I can see the name of the person that is interested in buying my item and where they live. After this last clean out I was able to successfully sell a rug we recently replaced that was taking up valuable real estate in our garage.

What I’m Working On

I’m continuing to chip away at various organization projects around the house. This month my goal is to tackle the kitchen pantry. It isn’t in awful shape, but I would like it to make a few updates, edits and evaluate what is working well for our family and what’s not. I’ll show you some before and after pics in the next month in case you have some of the same pantry challenges that I do.

What I’m Excited About

The photo book I created at the beginning of the month arrived. I’m so excited that I was able to achieve my goal of finishing our 2019 family photo album during the first month of 2020. I owe a big thank you to all of you for helping me to achieve my goal. I don’t know that I would have been as successful if I hadn’t broadcast on social media that making a photo book was my goal for the month of January. I highly recommend sharing your current goal(s) with your family at the dinner table, while catching up with a friend, on your Facebook page or Instagram story. Making just one person or the whole world aware of my goal(s) encourages me to be more accountable. What is one of your goals for February?

What I’m Watching

I first heard about The Two Popes during the Golden Globes. It piqued my attention and I suggested to my husband that we check it out. To say that my action and adventure movie loving, non-Catholic husband was excited by the prospect of watching this movie would be a huge overstatement 😂 Surprisingly, we were both hooked after the first minute. The dialogue in The Two Popes is so enjoyable and the storyline is fascinating. Give this movie a chance if you haven’t already.

What I’m Listening To

A couple months ago I shared that I had discovered that there was a Good Night for Rebel Girls podcast produced by the same people that created one of my favorite childrens books. I have since had a chance to listen to several of the podcast while taxiing my kiddos to their after school activities and on family road trips. I was met with resistance when I brought up the idea of listening to these stories as a family for the first time, but after a few minutes of listening to the first riveting podcast everyone in the car was engaged. The storytelling will appeal to young and old alike and each story includes entertaining facts that stick with you. Did you know that famous artist, Diego Rivera, had to have his underwear custom made because of his size or that he and his wife, Frida Kahlo, lived in separate houses connected by a bridge? In addition to Frida Kahlo, we have also listened to stories about freedom fighter, Harriet Tubman and World War II spy, Virginia Hall. I was not familiar with Virginia Hall and thoroughly being introduced to this heroic woman who evaded the Nazis despite the extra burden of having a wooden leg. I highly recommend going through the list of women featured on this podcast, reading the details section of the individual podcasts and downloading a few who you may or may not have heard of, but whose stories appeal to you.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

What I’m Reading

I finished The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell earlier in the month. It was a riveting read and I finished it in just a couple days.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.”

I’m currently reading Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. Her book Nightingale was one of my favorites, but Winter Garden has gotten off to a much slower start. I’m hoping the pace will pick up in the second half of the book.

“Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden is one woman’s sweeping, heartbreaking story of love, loss, and redemption. At once an epic love story set in World War II Russia and an intimate portrait of contemporary mothers and daughters poised at the crossroads of their lives, it explores the heartbreak of war, the cost of survival and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit. It is a novel that will haunt the reader long after the last page is turned.”

What I’m Wearing

It has been a chilly month. I have been all about wearing my comfiest, coziest pieces of clothing.

I received these slippers for my birthday and they have been by far my most worn item this month. I love the fact that they have a hard sole because if I need to run out to pick up a kiddo from school or practice, I can leave these on. I try to only wear these in the house and the car because we have a no shoe policy in our house and I want to avoid tracking outdoor pollutants inside.

I have been wearing this light burgundy flannel shirt at least once a week since I purchased it in December and I don’t think I have worn it the same way twice. I really like that it isn’t your typical plaid flannel. The material has a nice weight to it and is not rough at all. It has washed really well and fits true to size. My favorite way to wear this shirt is with leggings. It is longer in the back and fully covers my bottom. The best feature might be the hidden side pockets that I can easily tuck my hands. It is currently marked down and available in every size online.

What I’m Doing This Weekend

Super Bowl! To be honest, I look forward to watching the half time show and munching on game day snacks much than the actual game itself, but I will be rooting for the 49ers since I’m a Bay Area girl.

It is also my husband’s birthday. He is the biggest football fan, so the fact that Super Bowl coincides with his birthday is probably the best gift he could ask for. He also requested a family dinner at Benihana to celebrate. I’m looking forward to spoiling him a little and enjoying an entertaining dinner out.

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month

I am working on a blog post right now that I can’t wait to share with you all! I have already shared this tip with with a couple girlfriends and they have put it to use in their own home. I hope you will find it as useful in your everyday life as I have.

Has the month of January gone by slowly for anyone else? I feel like it has been ages since we celebrated the start of the new year. I wish that December had felt as drawn out as the past month has been. I’ve enjoyed having time slow down a little because I know that life will speed up again at any moment. I hope that your 2020 has gotten off to an equally great start!

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